Excellent Riesling is now being produced on both the East and West coasts of the US. In this article, we review recent releases of several of the most important American producers. These include Dr. Konstantin Frank and Lamoreaux Landing in New York, Westport Rivers in Massachusetts, and Pacific Rim and Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington State. Our tastings not only show the high average quality of Rieslings now being produced in America. These wines are also among the very best values in the wine world.
Riesling from the East Coast
Konstantin Frank Dr. Konstantin Frank, the creative force behind the establishment of the Dr. Konstantin Frank winery in New York’s Finger Lakes region is one of the wine world’s most colorful wine pioneers. Today, the family-run winery is managed by Fred Frank, Konstantin’s grandson with the assistance of other family members. Eric Bauman has been winemaker at Chateau Frank for the past decade. The Konstantin Frank Rieslings are richly flavored and finely crafted.
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2014 Dry Riesling Finger Lakes ($15) 90 Spicy with fragrant notes of ripe peach. Crisp and racy on the attack, leading to a bone dry but richly flavored palate with excellent rich extract on a mineral like finish. Delicious.Dr. Konstantin Frank 2013 Semi-Dry Riesling Finger Lakes ($15) 89 More dry than semi-dry, this is a flavorful, balanced wine. A bit reticent on the nose, but it shows good ripe stonefruit flavor, finishing soft and creamy with tangy fruit notes. Dr. Konstantin Frank 2013 Riesling Reserve Finger Lakes ($25) 91 This is classic Riesling, bright and brisk yet full and very richly flavored. It has superb length with a lozenge like intensity. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Lamoreaux Landing A Finger Lakes winery founded in 1992 by Mark Wagner, Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars has won accolades from the beginning when its 1993 Chardonnay won a national competition. Lamoreaux Landing was a 19th century steamboat dock on Lake Seneca where fruit was loaded for transfer to railroad cars at Geneva. Mark’s father purchased the family’s first vineyard in 1949. Mark became manager of the vineyards in 1978 and shifted the vineyards from vitis labrusca to vitis vinifera. Today Lamoreaux Landing has 105 acres of vines on the eastern hillsides of Seneca Lake. Josh Wig is now co-owner, and Colin Grant is winemaker. The Lamoreaux Landing Rieslings are perfumed with prominent minerality.
Lamoreaux Landing 2014 Dry Riesling ($15) 89 Showing a floral, jasmine and honeysuckle nose, this wine is bone dry but still reveals rich fresh apple flavors with notes of stone fruit on a crisp but lingering finish. Lamoreaux Landing 2014 Riesling Red Oak Vineyard Finger Lakes ($20) 91 Effusively perfumed with floral and white peach scents. It’s soft and gentle on the attack with moderate acidity and stony mineral notes, finishing clean and steely. Very good. The west-facing Red Oak Vineyard is planted on glacial silt loam soils derived from limestone and shale.Lamoreaux Landing 2014 Semi-Dry Riesling Finger Lakes ($14) 90 The Semi-Dry Riesling combines lush ripe fruit with excellent, lip-smacking acidity that gives the wine superb balance. There are both tropical fruit and mineral notes on the palate. Would pair very well with spicy Asian cuisine. Outstanding value! Lamoreaux Landing 2013 Grüner Veltliner Finger Lakes ($20) 89 Nice bouquet of spice, herbs and stone fruit. The wine is soft and creamy on the palate with good minerality and subdued fruit. Finishes crisply and with good length.
Westport Rivers Located in the country’s third designated appellation (South Eastern), this is the largest vinifera winery in the Northeast. Bob and Carol Russell purchased the 200 acre (now 500 acre) estate in 1982 and planted it in 1986. Located on Massachusetts’ south-facing coast, the vineyards benefit from the warm Gulf Stream that flows close to shore. Brothers Rob and Bill Russell manage the vineyard today; Bill (shown here) joined as winemaker in 1989; he previously worked at Lenz Winery, while Rob is the viticulturist with prior work experience at the Konstantin Frank vineyards. The winery currently has 80 acres of vines on the estate.
Westport Rivers 2013 Riesling Massachuetts ($18) 92 Starbright light straw. Attractive nose of minerals and stone fruit. The palate is lovely, showing bright, tangy apricot, superb balance with perky acidity and a dense, protracted finish. This outstanding Riesling is one of our favorites of the entire tasting.
Riesling from the West Coast
Chateau Ste. Michelle This winery is the largest and most influential producer in Washington State. The company includes in its portfolio six of the seven largest Washington State wineries as well as smaller properties that produce super premium wines. It produces over two million cases annually under the Ste. Michelle label, half of it Riesling. Its wines include a broad range of labels at different price points from inexpensive varietal wines such as Columbia Crest to single-vineyard and prestige labels, such as Eroica, a collaborative venture in Riesling production with Ernst Loosen of the Mosel, the Ethos reserve series, and selected other single vineyard wines. Chateau Ste. Michelle has also served as the training ground for many of Washington State’s finest winemakers. The Chateau Ste. Michelle Rieslings are consistently well made and superb values.
Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Dry Riesling Vinifera Rootstock Columbia Valley ($10 ) 89 Platinum straw. This is an excellent dry Riesling showing a fine perfume of pear, honeydew and spice. Zingy on the attack with good flavor depth and pronounced minerality that carries over to a lovely, long finish. Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Riesling Cold Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley ($20) 90 Pale straw. Fresh pear and apple with a lime zest accent on the nose. The attack is crisp and vibrant with notes of sweet stone fruit complementing orchard fruit flavors, finishing with good length and a tad off-dry. Made from 40 year old vines. Chateau Ste. Michelle 2013 Eroica Riesling Columbia Valley ($22) 92 Showing a fine perfume of stonefruit, the Eroica fully reveals its suave self on the palate. It shows good depth and length with attractive mineral notes, but it’s the perfect balance and silky texture that wins the day. Absolutely delicious! And a bargain, too. Chateau Ste. Michelle 2012 Eroica Gold Riesling ($30) 93 This is a brand new wine in the Eroica line-up, made in a rich but vibrant Spätlese-Auslese/late harvest style. It has a vibrant yellow-green gold color. The bouquet shows deep, apricot-honey scents accented by spicy pear and apple. The flavors reveal ripe orange and apricot marmalade fruit with lovely fresh acidity, a medium sweet finish, and impressive depth on the finish. Should age well for 10 years or more.
Pacific Rim Passionate Riesling producers, Pacific Rim specializes in the production of a variety of premium Rieslings. It was launched in 2006 by former associates of Randall Graham of Bonny Doon Vineyard who pioneered the production of Pacific Rim Dry Riesling. In 2010 it was sold to the Mariani family, owners of Banfi. Nicolas Quillé, from a winemaking family in Lyon, France, is Head Winemaker and General Manager. Steven Sealock is winemaker. The Pacific Rim Rieslings are balanced, flavorful, and extremely good values.
Pacific Rim 2013 Dry Riesling Columbia Valley ($10) 88 Light yellow straw. Showing an attractive bouquet of fresh apricot, Meyer lemon and minerals that are picked up on the palate with the addition of white stone fruit and a touch of spice. It’s medium weight and has a long, flavorful finish. Pacific Rim 2013 Riesling Organic Grapes Columbia Valley ($14) 89 Pale yellow straw. Has an exotic, spicy perfume of jasmine and fresh peach. Excellent palate balance with rich honeydew and sweet tropical citrus married to bright acidity, finishing with excellent length and a hint of sweetness. Made with ambient yeast and organic grapes. Pacific Rim 2013 Dry Riesling Selenium Vineyard Yakima Valley ($15) 91 This single clone, single vineyard wine reveals hint of orange, lemon and jasmine on the nose that are mirrored flavorwise on the palate. It’s densely flavored with a dry chalky texture and a richly extracted, long finish. Made from the Geisenheim Clone 239 known for its citrus aromas; fermented with ambient yeast in stainless steel. Pacific Rim 2014 Riesling Solstice Vineyard Yakima Valley ($29) 92 The Solstice Vineyard Riesling is bone dry with a slippery, steely texture that evokes cool water running over river stones. While a bit shy on the nose, the wine reveals excellent density on the palate with bright notes of citrus and stone fruit, finishing very long and linear. Sourced from 40+ year old vines of the 950’ high Solstice Vineyard. Pacific Rim 2014 Sweet Riesling Columbia Valley ($10) 89 Medium yellow straw. With an exuberant, ripe stonefruit nose and viscous, rich and balanced palate, this is a delicious wine. Bright acidty keeps it lively, so the wine finishes light and just off-dry. Would be wonderful paired with spicy Asian dishes. Superb value. Pacific Rim 2014 Grüner Veltliner Spring Creek Vineyard Yakima Valley ($15) 89 Showing fresh and dried apricot aromas and flavors, this is a refreshing, straightforward wine with good acidity and fullness in the mouth, finishing with an attractive tinge of bitter stonefruit pit.